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File: libc.info,  Node: Advanced gettext functions,  Next: Charset conversion in gettext,  Prev: Locating gettext catalog,  Up: Message catalogs with gettext

8.2.1.3 Additional functions for more complicated situations
............................................................

The functions of the `gettext' family described so far (and all the
`catgets' functions as well) have one problem in the real world which
have been neglected completely in all existing approaches.  What is
meant here is the handling of plural forms.

   Looking through Unix source code before the time anybody thought
about internationalization (and, sadly, even afterwards) one can often
find code similar to the following:

        printf ("%d file%s deleted", n, n == 1 ? "" : "s");

After the first complaints from people internationalizing the code
people either completely avoided formulations like this or used strings
like `"file(s)"'.  Both look unnatural and should be avoided.  First
tries to solve the problem correctly looked like this:

        if (n == 1)
          printf ("%d file deleted", n);
        else
          printf ("%d files deleted", n);

   But this does not solve the problem.  It helps languages where the
plural form of a noun is not simply constructed by adding an `s' but
that is all.  Once again people fell into the trap of believing the
rules their language is using are universal.  But the handling of plural
forms differs widely between the language families.  There are two
things we can differ between (and even inside language families);

   * The form how plural forms are build differs.  This is a problem
     with language which have many irregularities.  German, for
     instance, is a drastic case.  Though English and German are part
     of the same language family (Germanic), the almost regular forming
     of plural noun forms (appending an `s') is hardly found in German.

   * The number of plural forms differ.  This is somewhat surprising for
     those who only have experiences with Romanic and Germanic languages
     since here the number is the same (there are two).

     But other language families have only one form or many forms.  More
     information on this in an extra section.

   The consequence of this is that application writers should not try to
solve the problem in their code.  This would be localization since it is
only usable for certain, hardcoded language environments.  Instead the
extended `gettext' interface should be used.

   These extra functions are taking instead of the one key string two
strings and an numerical argument.  The idea behind this is that using
the numerical argument and the first string as a key, the implementation
can select using rules specified by the translator the right plural
form.  The two string arguments then will be used to provide a return
value in case no message catalog is found (similar to the normal
`gettext' behavior).  In this case the rules for Germanic language is
used and it is assumed that the first string argument is the singular
form, the second the plural form.

   This has the consequence that programs without language catalogs can
display the correct strings only if the program itself is written using
a Germanic language.  This is a limitation but since the GNU C library
(as well as the GNU `gettext' package) are written as part of the GNU
package and the coding standards for the GNU project require program
being written in English, this solution nevertheless fulfills its
purpose.

 -- Function: char * ngettext (const char *MSGID1, const char *MSGID2,
          unsigned long int N)
     The `ngettext' function is similar to the `gettext' function as it
     finds the message catalogs in the same way.  But it takes two
     extra arguments.  The MSGID1 parameter must contain the singular
     form of the string to be converted.  It is also used as the key
     for the search in the catalog.  The MSGID2 parameter is the plural
     form.  The parameter N is used to determine the plural form.  If no
     message catalog is found MSGID1 is returned if `n == 1', otherwise
     `msgid2'.

     An example for the us of this function is:

            printf (ngettext ("%d file removed", "%d files removed", n), n);

     Please note that the numeric value N has to be passed to the
     `printf' function as well.  It is not sufficient to pass it only to
     `ngettext'.

 -- Function: char * dngettext (const char *DOMAIN, const char *MSGID1,
          const char *MSGID2, unsigned long int N)
     The `dngettext' is similar to the `dgettext' function in the way
     the message catalog is selected.  The difference is that it takes
     two extra parameter to provide the correct plural form.  These two
     parameters are handled in the same way `ngettext' handles them.

 -- Function: char * dcngettext (const char *DOMAIN, const char
          *MSGID1, const char *MSGID2, unsigned long int N, int
          CATEGORY)
     The `dcngettext' is similar to the `dcgettext' function in the way
     the message catalog is selected.  The difference is that it takes
     two extra parameter to provide the correct plural form.  These two
     parameters are handled in the same way `ngettext' handles them.

The problem of plural forms
...........................

A description of the problem can be found at the beginning of the last
section.  Now there is the question how to solve it.  Without the input
of linguists (which was not available) it was not possible to determine
whether there are only a few different forms in which plural forms are
formed or whether the number can increase with every new supported
language.

   Therefore the solution implemented is to allow the translator to
specify the rules of how to select the plural form.  Since the formula
varies with every language this is the only viable solution except for
hardcoding the information in the code (which still would require the
possibility of extensions to not prevent the use of new languages).  The
details are explained in the GNU `gettext' manual.  Here only a bit of
information is provided.

   The information about the plural form selection has to be stored in
the header entry (the one with the empty (`msgid' string).  It looks
like this:

     Plural-Forms: nplurals=2; plural=n == 1 ? 0 : 1;

   The `nplurals' value must be a decimal number which specifies how
many different plural forms exist for this language.  The string
following `plural' is an expression which is using the C language
syntax.  Exceptions are that no negative number are allowed, numbers
must be decimal, and the only variable allowed is `n'.  This expression
will be evaluated whenever one of the functions `ngettext',
`dngettext', or `dcngettext' is called.  The numeric value passed to
these functions is then substituted for all uses of the variable `n' in
the expression.  The resulting value then must be greater or equal to
zero and smaller than the value given as the value of `nplurals'.

The following rules are known at this point.  The language with families
are listed.  But this does not necessarily mean the information can be
generalized for the whole family (as can be easily seen in the table
below).(1)

Only one form:
     Some languages only require one single form.  There is no
     distinction between the singular and plural form.  An appropriate
     header entry would look like this:

          Plural-Forms: nplurals=1; plural=0;

     Languages with this property include:

    Finno-Ugric family
          Hungarian

    Asian family
          Japanese, Korean

    Turkic/Altaic family
          Turkish

Two forms, singular used for one only
     This is the form used in most existing programs since it is what
     English is using.  A header entry would look like this:

          Plural-Forms: nplurals=2; plural=n != 1;

     (Note: this uses the feature of C expressions that boolean
     expressions have to value zero or one.)

     Languages with this property include:

    Germanic family
          Danish, Dutch, English, German, Norwegian, Swedish

    Finno-Ugric family
          Estonian, Finnish

    Latin/Greek family
          Greek

    Semitic family
          Hebrew

    Romance family
          Italian, Portuguese, Spanish

    Artificial
          Esperanto

Two forms, singular used for zero and one
     Exceptional case in the language family.  The header entry would
     be:

          Plural-Forms: nplurals=2; plural=n>1;

     Languages with this property include:

    Romanic family
          French, Brazilian Portuguese

Three forms, special case for zero
     The header entry would be:

          Plural-Forms: nplurals=3; plural=n%10==1 && n%100!=11 ? 0 : n != 0 ? 1 : 2;

     Languages with this property include:

    Baltic family
          Latvian

Three forms, special cases for one and two
     The header entry would be:

          Plural-Forms: nplurals=3; plural=n==1 ? 0 : n==2 ? 1 : 2;

     Languages with this property include:

    Celtic
          Gaeilge (Irish)

Three forms, special case for numbers ending in 1[2-9]
     The header entry would look like this:

          Plural-Forms: nplurals=3; \
              plural=n%10==1 && n%100!=11 ? 0 : \
                     n%10>=2 && (n%100<10 || n%100>=20) ? 1 : 2;

     Languages with this property include:

    Baltic family
          Lithuanian

Three forms, special cases for numbers ending in 1 and 2, 3, 4, except those ending in 1[1-4]
     The header entry would look like this:

          Plural-Forms: nplurals=3; \
              plural=n%100/10==1 ? 2 : n%10==1 ? 0 : (n+9)%10>3 ? 2 : 1;

     Languages with this property include:

    Slavic family
          Croatian, Czech, Russian, Ukrainian

Three forms, special cases for 1 and 2, 3, 4
     The header entry would look like this:

          Plural-Forms: nplurals=3; \
              plural=(n==1) ? 1 : (n>=2 && n<=4) ? 2 : 0;

     Languages with this property include:

    Slavic family
          Slovak

Three forms, special case for one and some numbers ending in 2, 3, or 4
     The header entry would look like this:

          Plural-Forms: nplurals=3; \
              plural=n==1 ? 0 : \
                     n%10>=2 && n%10<=4 && (n%100<10 || n%100>=20) ? 1 : 2;

     Languages with this property include:

    Slavic family
          Polish

Four forms, special case for one and all numbers ending in 02, 03, or 04
     The header entry would look like this:

          Plural-Forms: nplurals=4; \
              plural=n%100==1 ? 0 : n%100==2 ? 1 : n%100==3 || n%100==4 ? 2 : 3;

     Languages with this property include:

    Slavic family
          Slovenian

   ---------- Footnotes ----------

   (1) Additions are welcome.  Send appropriate information to
<bug-glibc-manual AT gnu.org>.


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